A serious mental health condition, post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD can be caused by a wide array of traumas — from physical, emotional, or sexual abuse to the violence and cruelties of crimes and wars.
For countless military veterans, PTSD symptoms often become part of their daily lives. Treatment for PTSD involves a multi-pronged approach and may be a lifelong endeavor. Among the alternative treatment options being explored, CBD may offer promising possibilities.
War Vets and PTSD
War creates ugly realities in many forms; for too many war veterans, these ugly realities often last long after they have come home.
Those who suffer from PTSD often experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Insomnia and poor-quality sleep
- Recurring vivid and distressing nightmares and flashbacks
- Irritability and fits of anger, often violent
- Difficulty concentrating
- Severe anxiety
- Panic attacks
- Persistent feelings of rear, guilt, or shame
- Emotional numbness and disconnection
- Extreme episodes of catatonia and terror
Living with the psychological trauma caused by war often leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as alcoholism or addiction. While professional treatment for vets with PTSD is available, limited resources mean that sufferers normally have to wait a long time to get the help they need.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage the symptoms of PTSD on your own. Keep in mind that any alternative treatment option should not substitute professional help; but it can make coping with daily struggles a little bit easier.
CBD for PTSD
Recovering from PTSD is a long and difficult process that involves a combination of different therapies, such as psychotherapy, medications, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
Aside from getting professional help, there are also life tools you can use in your daily life to help manage some of your symptoms. Some studies have shown that CBD can potentially help PTSD sufferers regulate their nervous system, in much the same way that relaxation techniques can help promote a sense of peace and well-being.
In one small, eight-week study involving 11 adult patients with PTSD, the administration of CBD capsules combined with regular psychiatric care resulted in a decrease in PTSD symptom severity in 91% of the participants. Some of the patients who suffered from frequent nightmares also reported getting some relief when taking CBD. None of the patients discontinued treatment due to side effects.
In another study involving a child with PTSD, treatment with CBD oil for the child’s insomnia and severe anxiety resulted in a gradual increase in sleep quality and quantity and a decrease in anxiety. There were no side effects reported.
Previous studies have established that CBD has anti-anxiety and sleep-inducing effects. While the aforementioned studies were small in scale and their findings still need to be backed up by further research, available evidence indicates that PTSD sufferers may derive some benefits from using CBD.
Especially because current drug therapies for PTSD are often ineffective for most sufferers and come with their own problematic side effects, the promising results for CBD as an alternative option become even more relevant.
How does CBD work?
The discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) led scientists to a better understanding of how many of the body’s processes work through the interactions between ECS transmitters and receptors. Some of the processes that the ECS regulates include sleep, mood, appetite, memory, hormonal function, immune function, pain, and inflammation, among many others.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a phytocannabinoid (literal translation: plant cannabinoid) found in Cannabis sativa. Take note that CBD does not have psychotropic effects like THC, another cannabinoid in cannabis.
CBD has the ability to directly interact with the body’s ECS, and this is how the plant compound delivers its potential therapeutic effects, which include:
- Anxiolytic (anti-anxiety)
- Analgesic (pain relief)
CBD products for PTSD
PTSD symptoms are often chronic and severe and, therefore, may require potent forms of CBD. While different individuals react differently to CBD, PTSD-induced anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, and even panic attacks may respond better to CBD oil, tincture, capsules, or sublingual sprays.
These CBD products often carry higher concentrations of CBD and may offer better results.
Taking the appropriate dosage is also important. For the management of PTSD symptoms, it’s always best to consult your doctor regarding dosing, especially if you’re already taking psychiatric medications. A good product will also come with dosage recommendations.
Start CBD therapy with the lowest recommended dose for your weight. Take the product as directed and stick to this dose for at least a week to see how your body responds. Gradually increase the dose and observe for another week. Keep adjusting your dose slowly until you feel the desired effects. Discontinue use if you experience any adverse side effects.
Keep in mind that CBD is generally well-tolerated by most individuals. But poor-quality CBD products may contain contaminants or other ingredients that could cause side effects. So make sure that you know how to choose a good-quality CBD product.
PTSD symptoms are often debilitating and lead to a poor quality of life. A sufferer typically experiences a combination of symptoms, each of which requires specific treatments. There is no one-size-fits-all therapy for PTSD sufferers, this is why it’s important to seek help from a professional.
Some alternative therapies may help manage certain symptoms and make daily life easier. CBD, in particular, may offer some relief from chronic or severe anxiety, insomnia, nightmares, depression, and panic attacks. As with any medication or alternative therapy, CBD affects differently individuals in different ways and varying degrees. It usually takes time and some experimentation with dosages and products to find a CBD therapy regimen that works.
Always consult a doctor before starting CBD therapy for PTSD; this is especially important if you’re taking other medications. Information on the safety and drug interactions of CBD is still limited; if you experience any adverse reactions, discontinue your CBD intake.
Recovering from PTSD is possible, with the right combination of therapies and with the commitment to overcome your trauma. The first step is acknowledging the fact that you need help, be it from a professional or your family and friends.